We sat in shock as Maggie shared the tragedy that had ripped her heart wide open. It was a story of the deceit, hidden secrets, a double life almost, that took place around her, and it all came crashing down with one powerful knock on the door. There was no more secrecy, no more hiding in darkness, only the consequences of the choices that her husband had made. She wondered aloud to us if she would be strong enough for the challenge ahead.
After 14 years of marriage, she was loved well by her husband. Their marriage hadn’t been easy, but there was no doubt of his love. Thus, the early morning knock on the door by the detective was completely shocking to her because while life wasn’t perfect, she had no idea that his secrecy had taken on this form, requiring legal intervention.
Over the next few months there were phone calls to be made, there were meetings and required expenses, and there was fear, Maggie said, lots of fear. She faced difficult and embarrassing conversations with many, including those who questioned why she didn’t pack up her husband and ship him back home – or why she didn’t take the kids and hit the road. Why would anyone stay when someone else has almost utterly destroyed life?
She told us that her answer wouldn’t be enough for us.
She wasn’t even sure it was enough for her own heart in the midst of all the pain.
What could possibly entice her to stand beside her husband despite all the wrongdoing?
“The grace of God,” she stated, firmly and with a strong voice.
“The redemptive grace of God that is freely available for even the worst of sinners.”
Some who questioned Maggie’s reasons laughed right in her face, or shook their head at her seemingly-misguided judgment.
Yet she stood, asking, begging and almost daring God to prove Himself faithful if He was, indeed, asking her to remain steadfast in her marriage.
Maggie described the peace that God gave her in the midst of the tumult she faced. It was more than just a feeling – you could tell her peace was soul-deep, a peace that passed understanding. We certainly could not understand it, others would not attempt to understand it, and she herself was blown away by the power of such peace.
“It’s God’s hand on my head,” she whispered, “keeping me right where I am, and not letting me move. I believe He is asking me to be still and to watch while He works in my husband and in the various circumstances of our lives.”
A glance around the table revealed a mix of emotions, mostly disbelief. Maggie was the good one – the one who was raised well, educated well, the one who balanced and juggled everything that was thrown at her. Yet, we now witnessed a different view of her – complete brokenness. She was stuck in this mess, unless she left. She had an easy ticket out, but chose not to use it.
And with that, the questions swirled in my head:
Why? Why did her husband have to go and mess up so badly? Why did she choose to stick it out? Why not check out of her marriage and move on to a life without the legal hassle, where she could move past the loss and rebuild her own life?
I heard her say that she had no choice but to trust God through this.
But really, who has that much faith in God?
Maggie explained that she wanted her husband to experience the grace of God’s forgiveness and redemption in his own life. It may be the last chance he would ever get, given the situation he had to overcome.
“God has given me hope from the very first moment,” she shared, while gently adjusting the wedding band on her finger. “I trusted Jesus completely when my eternal salvation was on the line. This is my beloved, with salvation – both spiritually and physically – on the line. If I truly believe that God can do what He says He will do, why wouldn’t I stay to see God work?”
“It’s an unpopular decision and I know it,” Maggie whispered.
She spoke of loss that resulted from her decision to stay, of friends who chose to let go, of mental, emotional and spiritual turmoil.
Yet in the next breath, though her voice shook, she told us of catching a glimpse of Jesus every step of the way. She shared about gifts of grace and mercy that were extended to her by complete strangers and by family and friends.
Maggie’s situation doesn’t deserve the favor of God – at least that seems to be the general opinion of most, maybe even my opinion, too, if I’m being honest.
But that’s the thing about grace – it’s undeserved.
Despite the mess that Maggie shared with us, she shared an even greater measure of the grace of God within her marriage. Maybe it’s because she asked for grace, time and time again, that it was heaped upon her in overflowing measure.
Or maybe it’s simply the way of God – full of grace and mercy for those in need.
Maggie’s story is a difficult one, one that won’t be completed for her anytime soon. The worst is hopefully behind her, but the future remains uncertain.
For all that she has endured, for all the doors that have closed, she remains confident that God is moving her family in a new direction. While she’s not sure what that is, she has confidence that God will open new doors at just the right time.
Maggie’s confidence in God? It’s unshakeable. Unwavering.
The reason for that confidence?
Purely, the grace of God.
*names have been changed to respect privacy